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THE BLOOD STONE by Jamila Gavin. Farrar, Strauss & Giroux Books for Young Readers. 352 pages. Published November 2005. $18.00. www.fsgkidsbooks.com
Blood stones. “Diamonds. There’s been more blood spilled over diamonds than any other stone. For all the gold and rubies and pearls and emeralds that abound in that kingdom, it’s still diamonds that count for the most.” The kingdom is that of Shah Jahan of Hindustan in the 17th century. The words are those of an old Dutch sea captain who advises young Filippo Veroneo of the possible dangers ahead for him in The Blood Stone by Jamila Gavin.
Twelve-year-old Filippo of Venice has never known his father, Geronimo, a master jeweler who left for far-off Hindustan in search of wealth and gems. Struggling during his 12-year absence, yet rich in many ways, the Veroneo family possesses a dazzling, expertly-cut diamond. It is this secret diamond, called the Ocean of the Moon, that will ultimately destroy or reunite them. Filippo’s greedy brother-in-law, Bernardo, hungers for the diamond. Thieves and spies attempt to make it their own. It is the only possession worthy of guaranteeing success in an unexpected task ahead.
While Bernardo plots to secure the stone for himself, a mysterious man named Sadiqui Iqbal Khan arrives at the Veroneo house as a representative of Geronimo. Through Khan, the family learns that Geronimo is being held hostage by an Afghan warlord and that Khan has made a vow to free him. He further explains that only the Ocean of the Moon will exact the necessary ransom monies from Emperor Shah Jahan. After much deliberation, Filippo’s older brother, Carlo, decides that Filippo must make the arduous journey with Khan to the palace with the diamond. Filippo’s quest to retrieve his father turns into lesson upon lesson of adaptation and survival while making life or death decisions.
Gavin’s story sweeps the globe from 17th-century Europe to South Asia, showcasing the vibrant city of Venice, the harsh beauty of nature, and the opulence of Shah Jahan’s palace. Stormy seas, desert sandstorms, and shadowy spies provide thrills, action, and adventure. Whether on the streets of his home city, in a desert that shows no mercy, or imprisoned in the palace of an emperor, it is Filippo’s focus of purpose that allows him to grow from a carefree child into a responsible young man. The Blood Stone seamlessly incorporates fantasy with history, family with companions, trials with victories, to yield a tale of human passion, determination, and conviction.
Caution: Fans of Divakaruni’s award-winning The Conch Bearer or Funke’s intriguing The Thief Lord will definitely fall in love with The Blood Stone. All others will find themselves easily absorbed by this gem of an adventure and its clear, honest storytelling. Sharp attention to an age-level hero, bursts of daring-do, and twists and turns of intrigue are certain to captivate one and all.
There is a story—or rumor—that a Venetian jeweler named Geronimo Veroneo was in Hindustan during the 17th century. It is also said that some attribute to him the design of the Taj Mahal. Whether or not that is true perhaps cannot be proven. It does, however, prove to be the basis of a highly enjoyable book for readers aged 12 and beyond.
|Jeanne E. Fredriksen reads and writes near Chicago, where she freelances as a copywriter and teaches Creative Writing to children through the Center for Gifted-National Louis University.|